White Sox-Indians Preview
By BRETT HUSTON
(AP) -- John Danks isn't happy with the way things are going right now whenever he takes the mound. The last team he probably wants to see step into the batter's box is the Cleveland Indians.
Just five days after another frustrating outing against the Indians, Danks tries to correct his early-season struggles as his Chicago White Sox continue this four-game set Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
Danks (2-4, 6.51 ERA) didn't win until June last season, going 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA in April and May, and he's off to another rocky start in 2012. He allowed seven runs for the second straight start in Thursday's 7-5 loss to Cleveland.
"It's getting comical," Danks said. "Straight up, I lost this game. We scored five runs tonight. That's a good pitcher on the other side. I didn't give us a chance to win this game at all."
That pitcher on the other side was Justin Masterson (1-2, 5.20), who will again square off with Danks on Tuesday - the sixth straight time Danks has taken the mound against the Indians (17-11) with Masterson opposing him. The White Sox left-hander is 3-2 with a 5.59 ERA in those five outings.
Masterson improved to 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA in his last eight starts against Chicago (13-17) last week after allowing three runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings.
"They're a good hitting team, but for some reason they're nice enough to not hit when I go out there and pitch, so I appreciate it," Masterson said.
Danks' struggles against Cleveland extend well beyond his last five outings. He's 3-6 with a 6.10 ERA in nine meetings since September 2008, allowing 11 homers in 51 2-3 innings.
The long ball has been a big problem for Danks in his first six starts this season as well. He's surrendered seven in 37 1-3 innings, a 1.69 per nine inning rate that's among the majors' 10 worst. Asdrubal Cabrera took him deep in the sixth inning last week, then Jason Kipnis broke open a 4-3 game with a three-run shot in the seventh.
Getting to Danks later in the game has been key. Opponents are hitting .180 their first time through the order against him but .320 after that.
The Indians totaled 10 runs while dropping their first three games this season to the White Sox, but they've averaged six while winning the last four. Michael Brantley and Casey Kotchman drove in three apiece in an 8-6 win in the opener of Monday's day-night doubleheader, then Cabrera had three hits and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of a 3-2 victory in the nightcap.
First-place Cleveland has won six of seven while the White Sox have dropped six of seven.
"We're playing good baseball," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We're playing better baseball at home, and it seems like we're getting the hang of it again."
Much of that surge is due to Cabrera, who signed a two-year, $16.5 million extension through 2014 prior to the season. He's 13 for 23 (.565) during a seven-game hit streak and his .437 on-base percentage overall ranks among the top 10 in the majors.
The 2011 All-Star is 13 for 33 (.394) with three homers, two doubles, nine RBIs and six walks in his last nine games against the White Sox.
Chicago's Alejandro De Aza, meanwhile, has looked like an All-Star against the Indians. He's hitting .393 (11 for 28) with two homers, nine runs scored and a .485 on-base percentage versus Cleveland and .233 with a homer and a .316 OBP in 23 games against everyone else.
Updated May 8, 2012